Taking a Break

Over-Training, Weight Gain & Adrenal Fatigue



Adrenal fatigue is caused by continual over stimulation of the adrenal glands from constant stress. The adrenal glands have difficulty keeping up with the constant demands and become limited in their ability to adapt too many stressors. This manifests as a number of symptoms, one of which is exhaustion that doesn't resolve with the typical rest and relaxation.


Typically, most people adapt well to the stresses of life. However, as we continually place increased demands on ourselves, our adrenal glands are constantly stimulated to produce stress hormones as our bodies' way of coping. As the stressors continue and less time is allowed for sleep and rest, 'adrenal fatigue' is often the result.


Adrenal fatigue occurs when a person is unable to continue with their customary level of activity. This is marked by a continual deterioration of everyday functioning. Depression and decreased performance are hallmarks of adrenal fatigue. Other key symptoms include difficulty sleeping, difficulty waking up in the morning, feeling unrested, decreased energy, fatigue, and increased injury and difficulty healing. 


There are 3 types of stressors that are placed on the body - emotional, mental and physical. Among the physical stressors are, going to long without eating, drinking coffee/caffeine and/or alcohol, eating foods you are intolerant to, exposure to chemicals in the environment (body products, kitchen products, cleaning products etc), and higher exercise demands such as high level physical training and marathon's.



You can, in essence, over train and cause yourself not only adrenal fatigue but keep that body fat hanging around your belly. Plus you can feel like you have been hit by a bus! 


Overtraining is when you perform more training than your body can recover from. Once you start putting undue stress on your body, you stimulate cortisol, that in turn raises insulin and leptin levels causing fat gain and hunger and craving cycles. Severe overtraining can take weeks or months to recover from. 


It is not just the overtraining causing the lack of recovery, it is the compounded effect of emotional, mental and other physical stressors that tip you over the edge. Work, home life, relationships, life circumstances, diet, all add to your body's, and adrenal's, abliity to cope. Add to this overtraining (too high intensity and/or duration and frequency) and you have driven yourself over the limit. 



Overtraining has been shown to affect blood levels of important neurotransmitterssuch which can lead to feelings of depression and chronic fatigue. The stress caused by intense, excessive exercise can negatively affect the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, possibly causing conditions such as hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is known to cause depression, weight gain, and digestive disfunction along with a variety of other symptoms. As we know, high stress in general can cause symptoms of hypothyroidism, and the stress caused by excessive, intense exercise is no exception.



Overtraining can also have harmful effects on the immune system. Research has shown that the cellular damage that occurs during overtraining can lead to nonspecific, general activation of the immune system, including changes in natural killer cell activity and the increased activation of peripheral blood lymphocytes. This hyperactivity of the immune system following intense overtraining can possibly even contribute to the development of autoimmune conditions.


  1. Reduce the frequency - High intensity, high stress exercise should be limited to 2-3 times a week, especially for those who are dealing with other health issues such as autoimmune conditions or digestive issues.

  2. Get adequate sleep - Make sure you are getting adequate sleep, particularly on the days you train. Interestingly, one symptom of overtraining is disturbance of sleep, so if you’re feeling restless and having trouble sleeping through the night, you may want to reconsider the intensity of your training schedule.

  3. Incorporate rest days - this helps rebuild muscle and takes pressure off joints and organs. In addition, rest days help to reduce cortisol load on the body. 

  4. Choose different intensity exercise - mix in low intensity yoga with higher intensity work outs. You may find that this stress reducing exercise helps you recover more quickly from your more intense exercise schedule.

  5. Deloading week - significantly decrease training volume every 4-12 weeks.